Work still being done to secure funding for Port of Moses Lake rail line

Devin Higgins, April 23, 2015, iFiber One News

The Port of Moses Lake is at risk of being denied state money to build an industrial rail line.

The state House of Representatives passed a 16-year, $15.1 billion transportation package on April 14 and the Senate passed a similar plan in February.

Both plans are set to generate more tax money by raising the state gas tax by about 12 cents and putting higher fees on truck weights and license places.

Where the plans differ is the $21 million allocated to the Port of Moses Lake to re-establish a connection to industrial rail after nearly thirty years. It was cut by House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, before it was passed, according to Rep. Matt Manweller’s office.

Clibborn stated she did not cut the funding to the port’s project and instead claims it was not requested by Grant County’s representatives when the package was assembled.

“I know and like the project, but it was not requested in the House,” Clibborn stated.

Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, said she has been in discussions with both Clibborn and Senate Transportation Chair Curtis King, R-Yakima, in recent days and they are working towards a resolution that could get the funding included in the final package.

“It is frustrating because this is such an important step on the long term economic growth for not just the port and the Moses Lake area, but the entire region of Grant County, and if it doesn’t go through, the only ones who will suffer for it are the business owners and taxpayers who are trying to foster that growth. Fortunately, the project has a lot of support in not only the Senate, but Gov. Inslee himself has seen the need for it and is supporting us as well,”  Warnick said.

The port has been trying to get funding from the state since 1999, and Director of Business Development Richard Hanover said its past time for the legislature to recognize industrial needs on the eastern side of the state.

“It seems like another case of politics as usual and we’ve reached out to our industrial partners here at the port, as well as community leaders to let our representatives know how important this project is to the future of the port, Moses Lake and the economic development of Grant County,” Hanover said.

Manweller serves as co-chair of the Washington State Rail Caucus and believes the removal of the port rail project, as well as other Grant County projects up for state funding, sends a poor message that legislators only care about what happens around the I-5 corridor.

“It’s a situation where one side doesn’t back the other on their project, then they don’t support you on yours, and the taxpayers and industries are the ones who lose out. I’ve talked with Representative (Tom) Dent and Sen. Warnick and we are prepared to fight to make sure those projects are included in the final package,” Manweller said.

Manweller added that while the legislative session ends on April 27, a special session is expected to start in early May in the hopes that the final transportation package can be resolved in reconciliation.

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